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Below is a family biography from the book, History of Kentucky, Edition 8a by J. H. Battle, W. H. Perrin and G. C. Kniffin and published by F. A. Battey Publishing Company in 1888.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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CAPTAIN PINK VARBLE is one of the best known river men in Louisville, and one of the safest and best Falls pilot ever on the Falls, having piloted more boats over the Falls than any one man in the business. He was born near Salisbury, North Carolina, September 5, 1828. He is the son of Henry and Alia (Catha) Varble, both of North Carolina. His parents moved to Kentucky in 1831 in wagons, and located in Oldham County, near Westport, Ky. Subject remained on the farm until 1842, then moved to Louisville and engaged in driving a wood wagon for J. M. Collins; remained with him for three months, after which he engaged himself to the old Falls pilot, Eli Vansickle, which was the foundation of his present occupation. He worked for Mr. Vansickle for six months, then made a contract with him to work four years for his board, clothing and three months’ schooling each winter and the learning of the Falls. The second year he was with him he took charge of the business, which was buying and selling flat-boats and lumber. Before his time was out Captain Vansickle established a ferry line between Portland, Ky., and New Albany, Ind., young Varble taking charge and running the boats for two years, then selling out and retaining one boat. His time being out with Mr. Vansickle he was re-engaged, at $400 per year, to run his boat up Salt River to bring out pig iron. Having found a purchaser for the boat he sold out and went to Vicksburg, Miss., in the fall of 1851, and opened a coal yard for J. H. Mulford, of New Orleans, La., and stayed there until April, 1852, but came back to Kentucky. On April 28, of same year, he was married to Frances Littrell, of Ghent, Ky.; eight children were the result, four of whom are now living: the eldest, Mary, the wife of John A. Stratton; second, Nelson L. Varble, the junior member of real estate firm of John A. Stratton & Co.; third, Pink Varble, Jr., the junior member of red estate firm of S. J. Hobbs & Co.; the youngest, Melvin Varble, is engaged with a collecting agency. Captain Varble was elected by the city council of Louisville to the office of Falls pilot in September, 1853, and has held that office ever since. In 1859 he built the tow-boat Pink Varble, and in 1860 bought the tow-boat Chas. Miller; since that time he has built and owned fifty-seven steamboats. In 1861 he transported fifty street cars to New Orleans (first used in that city) on barges, having to get permit from the Secretary of War to go through the lines, also to get proper papers to come back from the Confederate authority. The papers read in this way: “By authority of President of Confederate States of America, the steamer Chas. Miller is permitted to pass into United States without molestation. [Signed] Governor Moore, State of Louisiana.”

On his return from this trip he began to buy and build the number of steamboats as mentioned before, a great number of which were sold to the government. He also built the pontoon bridge across the river at Paducah, Ky., also one across the Ohio, at Louisville, at which time Bragg was threatening to burn the city. He was appointed captain of flag ship “Diana,” which moved Nelson’s division of army from Louisville to Nashville, Tenn. After the fall of Fort Donelson he was appointed in command of the Jacob Strader, the largest boat on the river, to go to Vicksburg to bring back the sick and wounded soldiers. Capt. Varble owned one eighth interest in Louisville and Jeffersonville Ferry Company, and had also $90,000 interest in the Champion Saw Mill in Louisville. He has had command and piloted all sizes of boats, from the smallest to the largest, constructed barges for the government service during the war, and is at this time Falls pilot at Louisville. He is fifty-nine years old, and quite active yet.

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This family biography is one of 195 biographies included in the Jefferson County, Kentucky section of the book, The History of Kentucky, Edition 8a published in 1888 by F. A. Battey Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: History of Kentucky, Edition 8a

View additional Jefferson County, Kentucky family biographies here: Jefferson County, Kentucky Biographies

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